Other than the odd blueberry muffin, I rarely ate and never thought much of muffins until the oat bran craze of the 1970s and ’80s, when it was widely publicized that oats could help reduce heart-threatening cholesterol buildup.
Then came the Beyond Bluberry era, when muffins became more cupcake than bread. There followed the era of bulging, softball-sized super-muffins.
The rich-lean continuum yo-yo’d back with a muffin cousin, oat cakes, becoming standard coffee house fare after they were adopted by the uber-bar, Starbucks.
Then muffin tops came along — domed saucer-size muffins that give you all the advantages of the crusty, often sugar- or glaze-coated tops without bottom wastage (bakers realized many people just graze on the top and throw the rest away, or hand it to the office disposal — the guy who eats everything).
All this is on my mind because I may soon be working with a muffin company (can’t tell which one yet). So New Year’s morning, after I realized that (DUH!) Liliha Bakery wasn’t open, I decided to make muffins. Cornmeal muffins. I am all about corn in any form. Just check my personal recipe files.
Starting with a recipe on a bag of Bob’s Red Mill medium-grind cornmeal, I came up with this, a sweetish, satisfying muffin that needs no embellishments:
Fruited cornmeal-almond muffins
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit, finely chopped (I used apricots and cranberries) or fruit and nuts
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup plain nonfat or lowfat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease muffin pan or line with paper liners (unless you’re using silicone, in which case no need to prep).
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients, including dried fruit.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together egg, yogurt, almond extract and vegetable oil. Pour wet ingredients into dry, combine using wooden spoon. Batter will be lumpy. If too dry, add a little more yogurt or a few drops water or apple juice. Fill muffin cups two-thirds full.
Bake 25 minutes for full-size muffins (makes about 6-8) or 18-20 minutes for mini-muffins (makes about 18-20 mini-muffins).
As my strong preference is for savory muffins, I’m going to try a not-so-sweet version, perhaps with a good, sharp grated cheese in it, soon.